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    Memorable Experiences in Architecture:

    Understanding how buildings affect people emotionally...

    Griselda Arteaga Trejo


    Master (MA) in Architectural Design

    The University of Sheffield

    School of Architecture

    September 2011

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    Its not enough just to see architecture; you must experience it. You must

    observe how it was designed for a special purpose and how it was attuned to

    the entire concept and rhythm of a specific era. You must dwell in the rooms,

    feel how they close about you, observe how you are naturally led from one to

    the other. You must be aware of the textural effects, discover why those colors

    were used, how the choice depended on the orientation of the rooms in

    relation to windows and the sun.

    Experiencing architecture (Rasmusen, 1989, p. 33)

    The fast pacing world in which people are living, has changed the ways in which architects

    design and build; the development of construction techniques and new materials has left

    architecture without materiality, which translates in a lack of sensory experiences; the senses,

    other than sight, have been neglected.

    Architecture built nowadays is more concerned with the looks of a building, its shape and

    form, more so than with the experience within it; it is almost becoming more sculptural, than

    inhabitable; it is not inviting, it is alienating. The power of the senses in engaging a person in

    the experience of space is put aside, and without it, architecture becomes dull and devoid

    of meaning.

    This thesis tries to understand how buildings transmit emotion, embody meaning and provide

    people with a sense of belonging, a sense of place; in doing so, further developed

    architectural projects will provide visitors with a much richer and memorable experience, by

    applying the findings of this research project.

    In order to achieve this, research through the design of an architectural project developed

    during the academic year 2010-2011, is carried along with an actual sensory experience of a

    place, as the only way to understand how buildings affect people, is to experience them first

    hand. Now, because the project is fictional, experiencing it is not possible; nonetheless, the

    sensory experience of any place is helpful in terms of understanding how they affect visitors.

    The information obtained from the research by design, and the sensory experience exercise,

    will not only answer the research question, but many other questions, ranging from the

    definition of architecture to ways in which architecture becomes memorable; by the end, it

    will point architects in the right direction to develop projects which will be more inhabitable

    than sculptural, more inviting than alienating, and not dull and devoid or meaning, but

    memorable and meaningful.

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    Through the days ahead I'll think of days before,

    You made me hope for something better

    And made me reach for something more...

    Diane Warren

    First I would like to thank two of my tutors, Stephen Walker and Carolyn Butterworth, for

    making sense of the thoughts I occasionally shared with them, for their patience and

    encouragement throughout the development of the studio project and this thesis.

    I would also like to thank my good friend and colleague, Christian Garca Arregun, for being

    my other supervisor and for letting me borrow her own supervisor, Lucy Cartlidge, whom I

    also thank for providing guidance in moments of need, when she did not have to. It was

    much appreciated.

    The University of Sheffield and CONACYT, for putting your confidence in me, for accepting

    me and sponsoring me; for helping me achieve this dream.

    My friends, who shared their experience as victims of the inundation in Veracruz, caused by

    Hurricane Karl, in September of 2010; and everyone else who shared their images and videos

    of the disaster. Without your support, the studio project, and therefore this thesis, would not

    have been possible. Also those few friends who hesitantly gave me their definition of

    architecture and let me use their pictures in this thesis. Thank you as well.

    The people in the architecture studio who took the time to get to know me, who repeated

    themselves more than once when I would not understand their lovely accents, who

    explained things to me in more than one occasion and who made me feel as part of their

    group, even though I did not belong there. You were my teachers and my friends.

    Everyone in Sheffield who made this place warmer despite of the temperature, who were

    there for me and shared their knowledge, architectural or not. You made this place home.

    My friends back home and all around the world, who were with me since day one and have

    never left me alone; who had more confidence in me than I did in myself, who paid for my

    coffees when I was broke from applying everywhere and who told me to never give up. You

    got me here.

    A mi familia, pero en especial a mis padres, Jorge Luis Arteaga Beauregard y Griselda Trejo

    Martnez, quienes nunca dudaron de mi, ni dejaron de apoyarme a travs del largo camino

    que ha sido llegar hasta el da de hoy; quienes no me preguntaban por la escuela y mi tesis

    porque yo les peda que no lo hicieran; quienes me obligaron a ir a clases de ingls los

    sbados por la maana an cuando yo lo odiaba, y me prometieron que algn da valdra

    la pena. Gracias por cumplir esa promesa.

    Finalmente, a esa persona especial; sin su ayuda, apoyo y amor incondicional, esta tesis y

    este sueo no habran sido posibles. Gracias por demostrarme que los sueos se hacen



    Griselda Arteaga Trejo

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    All our dreams can come true,

    If we have the courage to pursue them.

    Walt Disney

    For all those who are still in the pursuit of their dreams. Never stop believing.
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    Table of contents

    Definitions: A Personal Exercise.9


    Aims and Objectives...13

    Literary Review14

    The body and the senses..14

    The auditory system/sense of hearing.16

    The taste-smell system/sense of taste-smell..18

    The haptic system/sense of touch20

    The visual system/sense of sight22

    Sense of place.24


    Research Strategy..28


    Location and site.30



    The Experience.38



    Discussion and Analysis.46



    Isolating The Senses: Another Personal Experience...49

    Chronicles Of An Unannounced Flood Part 1.54

    Chronicles Of An Unannounced Flood Part 2.57

    Chronicles Of An Unannounced Flood Part 3.58


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    List of figures

    Figure 1. Subject interviewed: Sun Zavala...9

    Figure 2. Subject interviewed: Ricardo Silva...9

    Figure 3. Subject interviewed: Mara Rosa Valle.......9

    Figure 4. Subject interviewed: Csar Gonzlez.....9

    Figure 5. Subject interviewed: Eloy Cue....10

    Figure 6. Subject interviewed: Antonio Manzano...10

    Figure 7. Subject interviewed: Adolfo Lara...10

    Figure 8. Subject interviewed: Jos Roberto Lagunes...10

    Figure 9. Architect Maya Lin.....10

    Figure 10. Architect Mies van der Rohe.....10

    Figure 11. Architect Michael Graves......10

    Figure 12. Architect Zaha Hadid..10

    Figure 13. Architect John Ruskin...10

    Figure 14. Architect Frank Gehry.....10

    Figure 15. Architect Le Corbusier........10

    Figure 16. Architect Luis Barragn...10

    Figure 17. The Vitruvian Man.14

    Figure 18. Sense of sight.14

    Figure 19. Sense of hearing....14

    Figure 20. Sense of taste.14

    Figure 21. Sense of smell.14

    Figure 22. Sense of touch...14

    Figure 23. Jewish Museum: contemplating the void..17

    Figure 24. Jewish Museum: the falle leaves installation.17

    Figure 25. Jewish Museum: making sounds...17

    Figure 26. Jewish Museum: reflecting on the experience....17

    Figure 27. Guinness Storehouse: exhibition of barley.18

    Figure 28. Guinness Storehouse: exhibition of hops18

    Figure 29. Guinness Storehouse: how smell and taste are stimulated..18

    Figure 30. Guinness Storehouse: pint of Guinness...18

    Figure 31. A&F signature fragrance.19

    Figure 32. A&F waiting line.19

    Figure 33. A&F signature greeters at the gate.19

    Figure 34. A&F sign...19

    Figure 35. Center for the Sightless and Visually Impaired: sketch..21

    Figure 36. Center for the Sightless and Visually Impaired: different materials21

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    Figure 37. Center for the Sightless and Visually Impaired: different textures..21

    Figure 38. Center for the Sightless and Visually Impaired: tactile cues21

    Figure 39. Eco Pavilion: posible arrangement of blocks.................................................................21

    Figure 40. Eco Pavilion: another arrangement of blocks...............................................................21

    Figure 41. Eco Pavilion: Frida Escobedo at an event.....................................................................21

    Figure 42. Eco Pavilion: visitors experiencing space..............................................................